How to Get Rid of Squatters

Written on June 8, 2015 by , updated on December 28, 2015

SquattersWhen your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, he’s called a holdover tenant, also known as a tenancy at sufferance.

But you can also consider him to be a squatter – a person who unlawfully occupies property you own.

Sometimes squatters hold a certain attitude, as if they have rights to your property. And depending on the circumstances, and the local laws, they sometimes do.

That’s right! If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants.

Some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others are. San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union that helps squatters stay on your property.

A Common Problem

Pay attention to this case, particularly if you live in the California:

What about Trespassers?

Let’s say you have rental property that has been vacant and you haven’t been to visit it for a while. When you do go … surprise! You find some uninvited and unwelcome residents living there. Can you kick them out?

It depends. In some cities, if squatters turned on utilities at that address in their name, they might be able to claim residency. Even though these people are stealing your property, the police consider this a civil, not a criminal, matter.

To get the squatters out, you would need to open a court case. Fun, huh? You probably know that most court systems aren’t exactly the epitome of efficiency. The case could take months or even years to resolve.

This is the dark side of landlording, and it’s a huge flaw in the justice system.

What You Can’t Do

If you find an unwelcome squatter living on your property or if you have a tenant who stopped paying rent, you can’t do the following:

  • Put padlocks on the place to keep him out
  • Shut off utilities
  • Try to intimidate him in any way

Courts could view those acts as self-help, or illegal, and could fine you.

Regarding shutting off utilities, it’s probably better to keep them on anyway. Your squatter might improvise by using candles that could start a fire. He also might continue to use the bathroom facilities … even when they aren’t working. Enough said there.

What You Should Do

Try to avoid a squatter situation from happening. If you plan to leave your property vacant, make sure that it’s secure. You or a property management company should also check on the place regularly.

If you already have a squatter, here’s what you could do:

  1. Call the Police
    Act immediately if you discover a squatter by calling the police. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be for the courts to think you gave this person consent to be there. If the police declare this a civil matter and won’t remove the squatter, start the eviction process.
  2. Give Notice, and then File an Unlawful Detainer action
    Once you serve the eviction notice, you could get lucky, and the squatter might leave. If not, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which is the formal way to evict. Make sure you follow your state’s laws.
  3. Hire the Sheriff to Force the Squatter Out
    If the squatter is still sticking around after you’ve won your lawsuit, you’ll need to pay for a sheriff or police officer to get him out.
  4. Legally Handle the Abandoned Personal Property
    Find out what you can and cannot do with any stuff the squatter might have left behind. You probably can’t just get rid of it and would need to follow proper procedure for your jurisdiction. Many times, you can place it in a storage unit at the tenant’s expense. If they don’t pay to remove the items, the storage facility will auction it off.

Conclusion

Property owners need to do what they can to protect themselves against squatters.

Unfortunately, the law favors squatters by treating them as tenants even though this is unfair to owners. It places the hardship on legal owners instead of on wrongful squatters. Until there are laws that give landlords immediate relief and that punish the squatters, we’ll see this problem continue.

Have you ever had a problem with a squatter? If so, share your story in the comments below.

Get our free newsletter

Join 200,000+ landlords

  • ​Tips to increase income
  • Time-saving techniques
  • ​Powerful tools & resources

574 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Fiona Jeitner

    I have a home health aide, working 3 days a week but staying permanently stating he had issues at his sister in laws home. He is using a room In the house I own. He moved in prior to the stated date, is not paying or working extra for rent, moved my office supplies out of my room to the attic without my supervision stating the bed was on the porch and didn’t want it to get wet in case of rain so moved in earlier than expected. He says he wanted to save up for a room somewhere in a few months probably after he returns from Africa in March 2020. I have concerns he may want to stay after returning from Africa. Is he allowed to stay even if I ask him to leave and no longer wish to have his aide services. House is in NY state.

    • Tom

      Give him legal notice to leave as per NY and County law. If he is already in Africa then have it ready to be served to him upon his return. Consult laws about firing live-in workers and be ready to explain how dishonest the person has been in terms of what the arrangement really is rather than what he turned it into. I had a guy move in early once and it is a very bad sign of things to come. It’s someone who does not keep their word and who cannot be trusted.

  • Eric James

    I have an Older Veteran who had his girlfriend over one night and then refused to leave.
    They got into it, and she called the cops. She had him taken by warrant for assault and battery.
    He stayed in jail for 3 DAYS. He got out, they went to court, charges were dropped to a misdemeanor. SHe left. He went to see his kids in London for 6 weeks and asked me to keep an eye on his place. after 2 weeks of him gone, she returned. I drove by and saw a truck with the bed loaded and stopped. She was back. I called cops. She had broke in, changed her mailing address to that property. I left to crete 7 day notice for Unauthorized Occupants and by the time I got back the cops were there and the truck was emptied. Cop refused to take action.7dayup monday

  • LaVina MattoxLindsey

    Good Samarit an given sob story by veteran woman. Verbal agreement to pay half rent and the rules of his apartment to have no guests. She moved in in May of 2019 and now is finally gone she broke his rules and so he put cameras in for his protection and as result she said she was moving out not before going through his room and stealing something and looking through his personal papers for possible identity theft. She did damages he can’t afford to fix. Crow bar to loosen door to be kicked in. He now is no longer secure in apartment. Nothing done to her at all no charges no responsibility for damages. Where are his rights in Williston ND. I am a senior and concerned for his safety as well as mine.

  • Sherri Nelson

    My friend own her home that sits on 2acres she has allowed people to store cars trailers ect . On property well.one of her friends whos trailer she allowed him to park there….him and his girlfriend are now living in the trailer no utilities no water she has told them to vacate her property but refuse to they have received mail to her address in past but they have no property or belonging inside of her home .. how can she get them out of her yard they use her yard to go bathroom so it smells very bad around the trailer …she needs help can she call police

  • Alan

    Offer them $200 when they have all of their stuff outside and give you the key. It’s cheaper than an attorney and less likely to get your place trashed.

  • emily liefer

    I moved out of our house (married)bought my own home I’m still responsible for our house (contract). He invited a homeless person in, my husband is incapacitated and homeless now refusing to pay or move out.

  • TL Dalesky

    Two yrs ago, I had a verbal agreement to allow a young couple to stay in my home for two weeks. It became two months. They started paying rent which lasted a year. No written agreement. I’m a Sr and a widowed woman. It is now two years later. I got a restraining order on the woman due to the threat of killing me. They stopped paying rent a year ago and refused to move. Now, she’s out and so is he. BUT their stuff is still in my bedroom while he moves a little out at a time. I live in Oregon in LINCOLN County and no one seems to be able to help. I want their stuff gone. Please someone help me

    • Tom

      Some people renting one of my two little houses quit paying rent so I moved to evict. They abandoned at the last minute and left all of their stuff. I went through the whole abandoned property process with my attorney. It all became mine.

      Three months later they showed up banging violently on my doors wanting their stuff. One of them even charged me from outside so I had to slam the door shut. I called the sheriff. The sheriff hassled me more than they and did his best to intimidate me verbally, at gunpoint even, with an armed backup officer. I told him I didn’t want the stuff anyway and they could take it. Fine, but then they left half of it behind again, so for a year I was expecting the same thing to happen again.

      • Tom

        I’m saving that incident since there was legal paperwork backing up my position, and if anything like it happens again, the County will be sued. In effect, the sheriff deputy unwittingly committed armed robbery on behalf of the former deadbeat tenants.

        Getting rid of people’s stuff can be as hard as getting rid of the people. I have had a former tenant’s SUV with four slashed tires sitting here for almost two years, for example. It’s totalled, partially dismantled, the finance company won’t release the title because money is still owed on it, wrecking yard won’t take it without a title, and the local storage-and-lien sale scalawags are afraid to touch it. Sheriff refused to have it towed at my request even though they could do so.

  • Romona Terrell

    Uncle passed away somebody has been living on property for about 2 years unknown to family. How do I get him off property. Need to sell it.

    • Tom

      Give legal notice per local and state law. If they don’t leave after that, then move to legally evict.

      You can also go ahead and sell the property with the squatter on it if it works out better that way for you. This option to sell ‘as is’ offers the benefits of no renovation costs, no eviction costs and less time and energy.

      I watch people try to fix properties up for sale and it is usually a waste of time and energy.

  • Janie Robles

    My brother and his family of 4 plus kin were staying with my Parents till they found a place. Parents in process of selling,so they moved to an apt. Brother was supposed to move to, parent in the mean time got sick and passed. So my brother stayed and still refuses to leave. We went to court to evict, he appealed so here we are 8 months later and still fighting to evict.

  • Kim M Minlionica

    I ran an ad on Craig’s list. A young man answered and decided to rent my room. He paid the $50 non refundable deposit before moving in. I usually have a sub-lease prepared before move in but didn’t this time. I provide receipts for any money paid.
    He came to move in and didn’t have all of the rent which was due, he said he misunderstood and thought that the deposit was part of the 1st month’s rent, although I never even said that. And he didn’t even have enough of that was the case. Anyway I accepted his partial payment with a verbal agreement that he pay me in two weeks.
    I’ve yet to receive anymore money at all, and we’re looking at another month, almost 2 months rent on top of the balance from the 1st month. We are in VA.

  • William

    What happens when you sell an rv and that person refuses to start and remove the rv.
    Then now as it were, we’re stuck with them

  • Robert McNeil

    I have my cousins wife and his family squatting in my house . My wife wants them to stay . I don’t but in the only owner of this property my wife is not. I need help please

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available. Be short, sweet and to the point.